“That’s how he developed the moonwalk, working on it for days if not weeks until it was organic … He took an idea that he had seen some street kids doing and perfected it.”
From Michael Jackson’s obituary by Brooks Barnes in The New York Times on June 26, 2009 (quoting choreographer and director Vincent Paterson).
“The secret to innovation is very, very simple: spend time with the problem, unravel it, understand it, and figure out what you don’t understand. Look at it from different perspectives. The solution is usually imbedded in its understanding.”
From “The Innovator,” a profile by Angela Delli Santi in the Spring 2009 issue of Rutgers Magazine (quoting alumnus Mir A. Imran, inventor of hundreds of medical devices, on his work method).
“The painted motifs are abstractions of forms that McFadden observed in the architecture, jewelry or textiles of each culture. She wished to evoke a mood or offer an impression of the cultures rather than merely imitate their artifacts.”
From “Mary McFadden: Goddesses” by Kathryn A. Wat in the Spring 2009 issue of Women in the Arts (describing the effects of the fashion designer’s anthropology/sociology studies and world travel on her work).
* * *
I owe this story to Bonnie Knight, my piano teacher. She first told it to me a couple of years ago, when I began to study Chopin’s Opus 28, #15, Prelude in D-flat Major, familiarly called the Raindrop Prelude. She has retold the story to me a number of times. This helps buck me up, as my desire to play this piece keeps exceeding my ability to do so. (But piano is not a race, is it?)
Anyway, the story …
Chopin was isolated one dreary winter in a cottage. He was composing, of course. It rained and it rained and it rained. Even when the rain let up for a while, everything dripped. And then it rained some more. The repeated A-flat, G-sharp in the accompaniment hand of this prelude is thought to be the incessant drip-drip-drip-drip of rain from the eaves of the cottage.
Once you accept this idea — that the note may be a raindrop — and that Chopin’s isolation was probably emotional as well as physical — it informs the entire prelude. I envision a lull in a storm — then the storm returning — then another lull and perhaps even a clearing sky. As I play, I feel my experiences of being in storms (both actual and internal) entwining with Chopin’s.
“His studio process, then and now, was to read and think until an idea took hold of him.”
From “Western Disturbances” by Calvin Trillin in the June 1, 2009 issue of The New Yorker (referring to artist Bruce Nauman).
The March 9, 2009 issue of The New York Times ran an article by Motoko Rich about a young adult novel called “Thirteen Reasons Why,” by Jay Asher. The novel largely takes the form of transcripts of audiotapes.
Audiotapes? According to the article, ”The idea of using tape recordings … came from a visit to a casino in Las Vegas, where Mr. Asher used a recorded audio guide on a tour of an exhibition about King Tutankhamen of Egypt. Something about listening to a disembodied voice made Mr. Asher … think, ‘This would be a really cool format for a book I had never seen.’”
My aversion to Las Vegas, King Tut and audio guides aside, I immediately recognized what had happened. Some percolation took place among the various elements of the setting, the visual/aural stimulation, the art/technology interface — took place in a receptive, imaginative mind — and voila! A new way to structure a story.
And what about the story itself? Juxtaposed to the joy of the birth of a new idea was a sad reality. Again quoting the article, “‘Thirteen Reasons Why’ was partly inspired by a relative of Mr. Asher’s who had tried to commit suicide.”